High court refuses to block probe access to NYT reporters' phone records

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] announced in a one line order [text, PDF] Monday that it would not grant a temporary stay in a case involving federal investigators' access to the phone records of two New York Times [media website] reporters. The Times filed suit to block access after US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald [Wikipedia backgrounder] attempted to obtain records of phone conversations involving Judith Miller [JURIST news archive] and Philip Shenon directly from their telecom providers. A Chicago grand jury is seeking to identify the sources that leaked information on the planned terrorism probe into the funding of two Islamic charities to the journalists in 2001. The federal government asked the Supreme Court [NYT report] Saturday not to impede the federal prosecutor because of the pressing time concerns over the Justice Department's investigation into the leaks. In August, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official site] ruled [JURIST report] 2-1 in favor of the government, stating that the interests of law enforcement outweigh the reporters' constitutional protections under the First Amendment [text]. The Times was seeking a stay pending the court's ruling on its application for certiorari in the case.

The Supreme Court has not addressed the question of protecting journalists' confidential sources since 1972. Judith Miller [Wikipedia backgrounder] has previously been a subject [JURIST report] of a federal grand jury investigation regarding the identity leak [JURIST news archive] of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame. She was imprisoned for 85 days for failing to reveal her sources and has since left the Times. AP has more.

 

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